Homeward (Earth)Bound

Brendan Main | 9 Nov 2010 12:27
J + RPG - RSS 2.0

All this might explain something of Eagleland's enduring appeal. In daring to present an obvious fake over a belabored fantasy, EarthBound still manages to present a world as interesting and inviting as any that have come since. Due to its unique premise, it remains an outlier - now, two decades after the first game in the series, the fantasy staples that inspired other JRPGs have ossified into brittle clich├ęs, but EarthBound remains one of the most unique examples of its genre ever made. But this very success is ironic - EarthBound is actually the second in a trio of games, known as Mother 2 in Japan. The first and third installment have never been localized, save by a few intrepid fans. Despite having a vocal fanbase, the Mother series have yet to see an official translation, or a virtual rerelease. The reasons for this are partly pedestrian, hinging on difficulties in copyright - as it turns out, imagining an America of Coca-Cola and McDonalds is a really great way of running afoul with those actual trademarks, and the localization of such a property may have people skittish.


This is the odd little cubbyhole that EarthBound occupies. An "American" game that resists "Americanization." A fiction-of-a-fiction that somehow feels more tangible than fact, and an ostensibly familiar setting with more inventive spirit than a dozen other games set in floating cities or megaverses, in data streams or dreams-within-dreams. There may be a lesson here about the dynamics of fantasy - at this point, we are more than familiar with the stock elements that shape such a genre: swords, spells, big-pointy-ears. A game like EarthBound reminds us that, more important than these stock props, is the ability to be fantastic - to be extravagant and lighter than air, to be weird in a wonderful way. EarthBound is a game of psychic kids and crooked cops, of skate punks and spiteful crows, of oracular dung beetles, mechanical octopuses, alien robot ghosts, of diamond dogs, devil machines, and mindless, cosmic beasts from beyond.

EarthBound is fantastic.

Brendan Main hails from the frosty reaches of Canada, where he spent a happy youth in igloo suburbia. EarthBound's story of aliens attacking the suburbs makes him wonder who the real aliens are. SPOILER WARNING THEY ARE US.

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